My favorite thing about January is when I start to receive plant catalogs and get to learn all about all the wonderful new plant varieties for the year. Plant breeders are always working on upgrading our favorite plants — and creating whole new types never before seen by gardeners! Upgraded varieties may come in new colors, offer better disease resistance, offer a bigger or smaller habit, or any other number of features that make them perfect for your garden.
It’s probably no surprise then, that I love putting together the new plants stories you see here on BHG.com. This year I had the pleasure of working with my friends Doug Jimerson and Karen Weir-Jimerson on the lineup. (I had the easy job: picking the plants; they did the fantastic writing.) Are you interested in learning about the must-have plants for 2013? Check out the links below!
Comment below and tell me which ones you’re most excited about!
Doug and I had an early start Thursday morning — very early. We left our comfy hotel at 4.45 a.m. in an attempt to pass through the giant writhing mass of traffic that is Los Angeles during the morning rush hour. Happily, our mission was successful — we zipped down the California freeway from Ventura in the dark and hit LA around sunrise.
Once we were well out of the threat of spending hours sitting on the road in an endless line of other cars, we stopped and had a very delicious breakfast (which I believe was my first meal at an IHOP). And being the plant lovers we are, Doug and I couldn’t help but check out the garden departments of the Lowe’s and Home Depot right across the street. All of those Southern California plants made me wish I’d brought an extra suitcase (and had an unlimited credit card)!
Eventually, 170 miles after leaving our hotel, we made it down to Bonsall where we were met with great hospitality by the Proven Winners team (shout out to Danielle, Marshall, Chris, and Doug!). They always have an exceptional line of plants to show, and Doug and I were not disappointed.
My favorite variety at PW was Calibrachoa Superbells Grape Punch, a delightful chamer that offers rich purple flowers kissed by a darker purple center. I can see using that in all sorts of fun combinations — with airy Euphorbia Diamond Frost or Gaura Stratosphere White; with rich coleus Dark Star or colorful pepper Purple Flash.
The star of the PW show, though, was Calibrachoa Superbells Cherry Star. We’d seen a lot of calibrachoas on this trip, but this one really stood out because of the gold star pattern on the hot pink flowers.
Additionally, we were treated to the sights of their other outstanding annuals — plus shrubs (watch for pearlbush — it’s a stunner in the May landscape!) and the new line of perennials Proven Winners will be adding next year (including heat- and drought-resistant baptisias).
After lunch, we jumped on the road after a quick 10 miles, we arrived at Plug Connection, where that company was displaying, as well as Suntory (which is the company behind such outstanding plants as the Sun Parasol series of mandevilla, Senetti line of pericallis [aka cineraria], Surfinia petunias, Tapien verbenas, and Million Bells calibrachoas).
Our friends at Benary were also there and in top form. Benary is known for its begonias (think Nonstop tuberous begonias, as well as the Cocktail series of bedding begonia), Denver Daisy black-eyed Susan, and a host of other great varieties. The company was showing off some gorgeous new pansies in their Inspire line, as well as 2011 All-America Selections award winner Gaillardia Arizona Apricot.
The last stop of the day — and of California Spring Trials for us — was Ecke Ranch, where we were delighted by a gorgeous display of plants. Ecke had a little of everything — gorgeous new osteospermum, coleus, sweet potato vines, petunias, and more. It was a great way to wrap up the trip!
Like what you read and missed our first three days? Check them out here!
Doug and I arose early Wednesday morning eager to get on the road and see more great new plant varieties. Our first stop was in Lompoc — UK plant breeding company Floranova and its exceptionally cool brand of vegetables, Vegetalis. It was here we got to see such plants as beautifully variegated ‘Field of Dreams’ corn, adorable ‘Whispers’ nicotiana, and sweet little Royale salpiglossis.
And one of the coolest thing is that Floranova set up displays in their greenhouse that looked like planting beds (very nice ones at that!) and they a fantastic job of mixing vegetables and herbs right in with their flowering annuals. Floranova even had a movie-set-style house facade in their greenhouse to help show off landscaping ideas with their products.
After taking in the sights at Floranova, it was time to jump back in the car and we drove 50 miles south to Santa Barabara where, at Imagination Canyon Greenhouses, we were able to meet with three companies in one stop. The first was European plant breeder GGG, a company which I’d love to see more of their plant varieties around the US. One standout product was Velox Pink — an unusual, mildew-resistant cross between annual phlox and verbena.
Also on board was Skagit Gardens from the Pacific Northwest. A great company that supplies many fine perennials to retail garden centers across the country, one of its stellar offerings was the Gold Collection of shade-loving, deer- and rabbit-resistant, drought-tolerant hellebores. Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ was also a fun one!
Next up was Florist De Kwakel, a Dutch company that almost exclusively breeds gerbera daisies. They have such interesting varieties, including ‘Midi Bicolour Double’, ‘Patio Everglades’, and the semi-hardy Garvinea series.
Plus we got to see what’s new in the world of plant tags from the John Henry company and snack on delicious chocolate croissants.
It was back in the car…and another 20 miles later we hit gorgeous Island View Nursery, where we had the opportunity to meet with wonderful folks from three more companies.
The first was Plant Haven, a company that helps bring some of the coolest plant varieties around to the market. You’re probably familiar with a lot of the plants they’ve handled — Black Scallop ajuga, ‘Fanfare’ gaillardia, and new-for-2011 ‘Ruby Falls’ redbud.
In greenhouse right next to Plant Haven, we found Hort Couture — a group of plants you’ll only find at finer retail garden centers. They had so many topnotch varieties — some stellar calibrachoas, lobelias, petunias, coleus…and the list goes on!!
With them was wonderful European plant breeder Westhoff, known for their lobelias, verbenas, and calibrachoa. How can you not fall in love with a variety like ‘Superstar’ lobelia, double Roccoco Peach verbena, or Estrella Voodoo Star verbena?
Then it was off to Ball Horticultural, where afterward, all we could say was “wow!” They had a ton of new varieties, including ‘Wasabi’ coleus that really caught Doug’s eye last month when he was at Costa Farms. One of my favorite new varieties for next year is the Archangel line of angelonia (the purple, pink, and white flowers in the first picture below). The blooms are so much bigger than any other angelonia I’ve ever seen!
Not only did we see rock-star plants, but we also had a lovely visit with old friends and make some new ones. Plus, they gave us lunch and it was amazing!
Did you see the first two installments? If not, check them out!
Our next leg of California Spring Trials was off to a great start. Doug and I zipped from the charming little town of Marina over to Salinas, where we visited the headquarters of American Takii Seed. They’re fantastic breeders of garden plants, including two All-America Selections winners for 2011 (Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ and Kale ‘Glamour Red’). And we saw proof that the salvia is a good plant for hummingbirds — there was already a hummer in the greenhouse drinking from the salvias when we arrived at 8.30. The Takii folks promised they didn’t stage it.
Our next stop was just 10 minutes away — at the show house of Sakata Seed America. They had a dazzling facility that was full of color (and ideas). Sakata is the breeder of many garden favorites, so it was like visiting old friends like Sunpatiens, Profusion zinnias, adorable Kameleo mini gerbera daisies (so cute!), and one of my favorite plants, the SuperCal line of xPetchoa (petunia crossed with calibrachoa). Plus, we had the opportunity to visit with a couple of good friends (Hi Jeanine!) and enjoy a really fantastic lunch.
Our bellies full, we jumped in the car and headed 136 miles south to San Luis Obisbo, where Dummen USA treated us to a stellar show at Edna Valley Vineyard. There we saw a dazzling array of new plant varieties, including new colors to the huge-flowered line of Magnum New Guinea impatiens, and new colors to the Potunia series of petunia. (Look at all of the colors they have in Potunia group!) Dummen is also the breeder of Phloxy Lady phlox, and had reprinted my recent blog post on poster next to their display of new Phloxy Lady colors!
Our last stop of the day was Greenheart Farms (over in Arroyo Grande), known for their roses. [Though it was a challenge getting there; our GPS kept asking us to turn left on roads that didn't even exist. And while cutting through someone's pasture might have been a shortcut, I didn't think the rental car agency would appreciate it very much...] One of the standouts was the Garden Treasures line of miniature roses — they’re adorable, super hardy, and flower like crazy. The folks at Greenheart told us that because of their small stature, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them in place of some of your favorite annuals as edging plants in the garden, mixed containers, etc.
Every spring, groups of plant breeders, garden center managers, horticultural brokers, garden journalists, and other plant-loving types flock to California for an event called California Spring Trials. It’s where a number of the big plant breeders show off their new varieties you’ll see in garden centers the following year. This year, Doug Jimerson (editor in chief of gardening for the Better Homes and Gardens brand) and I had the pleasure of attending.
It was a six-day journey that started with us leaving Des Moines, Iowa, for warm and sunny California. We arrived in San Jose on Sunday, and promptly started our adventure, driving south about 60 miles to the seaside town of Moss Landing where we met with the folks from Golden State Bulb Growers and saw their amazing selection of callas (and there were some spectacular varieties — lots of golds, some oranges, pinks, whites, and even a couple that were nearly black) and begonias (in the cool greenhouse, the flowers on some varieties were easily 6 inches across).
The next day we got up early and drove over to Gilroy, where we first met with the folks from Danziger and saw a selection of breathtaking new varieties (as well as some old favorites, including the Littletunia series of petunias) — and their lovely pre-made plant combo ideas (the Mixis).
Then it was time to hit the road and drive over to meet with the fabulous folks at Syngenta Flowers — where we saw tons and tons of plants (including Verbena Lanai Twister Pink), had a great lunch, and picked up a lot of ideas for future stories from their displays.
We were next on the road again for a 25-mile jaunt to Watsonville, where we talked to folks at Pacific Plug and Liner, where we were treated to more great plants from around the world, including geranium ‘Dreamland‘ — as well as some yummy chocolate-chip cookies.
The last stop of the day was another 20 miles to San Juan Bautista, where we met with folks from Thompson and Morgan; ABZ Strawberries, which has really fun varieties such as delicious and beautiful ‘Tristan’, HEM (which offers a really lovely series of annual dianthus), and more.
One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to see new plants before they hit the market. Here’s one I’m really excited to try — Verbena ‘Estrella Voodoo Star’. This variety has the potential to add some real zing to my mixed containers!
What do you think? Do you like it or is it a little over the top for your tastes? Post a comment below!